Fraser-Smith to head First Group's new dedicated F&B division

Property development firm recruits leading food and beverage expert Duncan Fraser-Smith to head up new business venture

Duncan Fraser-Smith.
Duncan Fraser-Smith.

The First Group has launched a dedicated F&B business that will introduce new and established restaurant brands to Dubai, some of which will be global firsts.

In a move that marks significant expansion for the Dubai-based property development firm, the new division aims to "fill the gap in the market for affordable lifestyle-driven dining concepts", as demand in the mid-scale and upscale hospitality sectors starts to boom.

Heading up the new venture is F&B expert Duncan Fraser-Smith, who was recently appointed director of global food & beverage for The First Group.

Fraser-Smith will draw on his extensive experience defining and developing high street and hotel-based bars, cafés, restaurants and lifestyle outlets to pioneer "industry-disrupting concepts".

The dedicated F&B business will create fresh brands and bring new and established franchises to the city, with the first outlets to be rolled out at properties developed by The First Group including Wyndham Dubai Marina, Metro Central in Barsha Heights and the soon-to-open Tryp by Wyndham Dubai, also in the Barsha Heights precinct.

In Q2 2018, The First Group will officially launch its third hotel property, The One Dubai Marina, and it will "wow the market" with a global first, Fraser-Smith revealed.

“We’re keeping details under wraps for now, but it will be an industry-disrupting concept, the first of its kind, not only in Dubai, but internationally,” he said.

“Dubai is one of the best places in the world to launch new restaurants and bars because you are catering to a market of people who love eating out. We want to provide them with something out of the box; casual, mid-range bistro-style concepts that are fun, affordable, but above all, serve fantastic food and deliver great service.”

The First Group’s F&B division aims to launch 30 new outlets in the coming years and will look to franchise its most successful brands thereafter.

"Dubai’s F&B sector is booming, but while the budget and high-end dining scene are well served, the mid-market is not as well catered for. The First Group’s new venture bridges this gap," said Rob Burns, chief operating officer, The First Group.

The UAE’s F&B market was valued at more than US $11.7 billion in 2015, according to KPMG’s Hungry for More? 2016 UAE Food & Beverage Report, citing data from market research firm Euromonitor. This figure is set to rise to $13.2 billion by the end of 2018, achieving an annual growth rate of 4%, while revenue growth is likely to outstrip outlet growth by around 30% as tourism arrivals rocket in the lead up to Expo 2020 Dubai.

The First Group aims to capitalise on the F&B market’s predicted growth, as well as the related escalating demand for mid-scale and upscale hotel offerings in Dubai, with its new restaurant and bar models.

Top priority is to “re-position” existing outlets currently dealt with by The First Group’s asset management division, TFG Asset Management, with one at Metro Central and three at Wyndham Dubai Marina, as well as positioning the three new offerings at Tryp by Wyndham Dubai.

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